GREENVILLE, NC: The Delta Dental Foundation (DDF), the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of North Carolina (DDNC), today held a virtual event to award $85,000 for oral health initiatives serving NC communities. The event, which commemorated the 10th anniversary of Smiles for Kids, a grant program that funds oral health education and services across North Carolina, featured remarks from CDC Foundation Chair & UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health Professor Dr. Leah Devlin, DDS.

“These Smiles for Kids grants are critically important in catalyzing partnerships, bringing additional resources to the table, and providing innovative approaches to improve oral health in North Carolina,” said Leah Devlin, CDC Foundation Chair & UNC Gillings School of Public Health Professor. “As a society, we don’t always realize that oral health is a part of total body health. The Smiles for Kids grants advance oral health care delivery and education to underserved children across the state, including urban and rural communities.” 

Curt Ladig, President and CEO, initiated the program when he joined DDNC in 2010. Since then, DDF has invested more than $510,000 through the program, which has touched the lives of more than 330,000 underserved children and families in the state.

“When I joined Delta Dental of North Carolina 10 years ago, I learned that 37 percent of the children entering kindergarten have tooth decay, causing them to miss critical class instruction time,” said Mr. Ladig. “This was unacceptable. Today, I am thrilled to celebrate 10 years of Smiles for Kids because of the positive impact that it’s had on so many children across the state. Because at Delta Dental, we believe that everyone deserves a healthy smile.”

Pitt County Health Department will use the funds for their Smile Safari Mobile Dental Program that travels to schools throughout Pitt County to offer dental screenings and dental treatments to underserved children.

In 2019, an estimated 2.4 million North Carolinians struggled to get adequate dental care.[1] Residents in 98 of the state’s 100 counties live in a region designated by the federal government as a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area.[2] Smiles for Kids supports safety net dental clinics and North Carolina nonprofits, which provide critical dental services and education to local residents. 

The event also featured remarks from two grant recipients, Dr. Rebecca Sykes, Dental Director for Wake County Government, and Dawn Jolly, RDH, Assistant Director/Mobile Program Manager for Wilkes Public Health Dental Clinic.

The full event is available to view here:

Through the Smiles for Kids program, the Delta Dental Foundation has been providing mini-grants to North Carolina nonprofit organizations to help fund dental education initiatives and programs designed to promote children’s oral health, especially to those in underserved areas. In considering grants, the Delta Dental Foundation evaluates each application on its own merits. It considers the programs in which the organization is engaged, the constituencies it serves, the services it offers, its accountability and its fundraising practices, and the level of local community support it attracts.